Scarce resources are the new reality at NASA, which sought feedback from the National Research Council to inform the tough investment decisions it will soon face. “The necessary technological developments have become less clear, and more effort is thus required to evaluate the best path for a forward-leaning technology program,” write authors of a NRC interim report  published Aug. 30 and commissioned by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist.
Gaps in technology roadmaps and little consideration for the commercial space sector highlight problems that further complicate program decision making, finds the report.
“NASA has now entered a transitional stage, moving from the past era in which desirable technological goals were evident to all, to one in which careful choices among many conflicting alternatives must be made,” the researchers say.
A later report will provide more specific feedback on NASA’s technology roadmaps and recommendations for OCT. The overall structure of NASA’s individual technology roadmaps is fine, says NRC, but the committee proposed some changes in the technology areas’ breakdown structures.
The most significant changes suggested by NRC are in area 4–Robotics, TeleRobotics and Autonomous Systems–which include broad changes in the lowest level of the breakdown structure (the “level 3” technologies). The level 3 technology changes greatly affect the rest of the roadmap and so “the 04 roadmap would have to be largely rewritten,” conclude authors.
The report also finds NASA roadmaps fail to consider the needs of the commercial space sector or opportunities for partnership. Authors suggest NASA could include commercial space at the second level of the structure in some roadmaps.
NASA generally agrees with the interim report and “is pleased that the committee will conclude its work in time for NASA to use the NRC findings as guidance for its FY 2012 space technology investment decisions,” said  NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun in a statement.
The final study on NASA’s technology roadmaps will be issued in early 2012, says the report, and will provide specific guidance on how NASA OCT’s technology development program can prioritize projects “in the face of scarce resources.”
— Written by M. Bernhart – Fierce Government IT – Sept. 1 2011 – at http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/nasa-looks-prioritize-technology-spending/2011-09-01?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal